Don’t tinker with snow removal

You didn’t hear much jubilation among people in the community when Estevan received its first blast of snow last week.

We woke up to a few centimetres on the ground on Oct. 3, and while much of it had melted away by the end of the day, we were greeted to more of the white stuff two days later.

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Once again, it didn’t last very long. But snow in early October is often horrible foreshadowing of what’s to come when the winter months actually hit.

The good news is the City of Estevan did not have to spend much money on snow removal, since the snow wasn’t substantial, and it didn’t linger around for long. The sand trucks had to make a cameo appearance, and the fire hall parking lot had to be cleared so that it could be easily accessed.

But outside of that, there wasn’t much work to be done, or money to be spent.

Our fingers are crossed that the city won’t have to spend much money on snow removal this year. The snow we receive will hopefully be sufficient for the local farmers’ moisture needs, but it will come in small, incremental amounts, rather than the massive snow dumps we received in the winter of 2016-17.

We also hope the snow will be gone by the end of March, so that we can get outdoors and enjoy spring activities.

This assistance would go a long ways in keeping snow clearing efforts affordable.

You can call these hopes idealistic nonsense or wishful thinking. They probably won’t happen. But we can dare to dream.

Regardless of how many significant snowstorms we receive, or how much snowfall accumulates during the winter, we’re going to want excellent snow removal efforts, and you’re not going to hear much complaining if the snow removal expenses come in over budget.

Snow removal is one of the few expenses in which people will forgive a municipality if the cost exceeds the budgeted amount. They won’t be happy if wages are too high, or if capital and operations expenses come in higher than expected.

But if lots of money is spent on snow removal, and if people can see the need for the expense, then they’ll typically understand.

We’re all busy. We don’t have time to shovel our way out of snow that has accumulated on a residential road. And we definitely don’t have time to worry about insurance claims and repairs to our vehicle because we hit an icy patch on the Perkins Street hill.

You might get a few complaints from people who don’t like the expense (many of those people aren’t driving) but the complaints are much louder for sub-standard snow removal. 

If the snow removal becomes a make-work project, then people aren’t happy.

It doesn’t take long to eat into the snow removal budget, either. A couple of large, powerful storms force the city to move into a full-scale snow removal operation, with long hours and the added expense of contractors. A couple of big storms can take the city from under budget on snow clearing to well over budget in a matter of weeks.

But you typically won’t hear people complaining if snow removal comes in over-budget. Show them the cost, show them the end result with relatively clean and drivable streets, and decent sidewalks, and they’ll understand.

They’ll tell you that it’s better to spend money on excellent snow removal, rather than be stuck in a snow drift a week after the most recent storm.

You aren’t going to hear many people gripe about clear streets, no matter how much money is spent. 

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